Menstuff® has compiled the following information on nipple problems. See also Breasts

Women Compare Nipples

The Braless Dairies




What Photos of Breastfeeding Are Supposed to Look Like

Extra nipples
Hairy Nipples
Inverted nipples (innies)
Itchy, scaly nipples
Nipple Covers
Nipple discharge
There Ought to be a Law
Ways of making your nipples protrude
Why Millennials are going braless
Study: Two-thirds of Millennials sleep nude
Related Topics: 
Breasts, Breastfeeding, Baby Gaga

Extra nipples
Most people have only two nipples, but about 1 in 50 people (both males and females) has more. These extra nipples are not as well formed as the main nipples, so you may have them without realizing what they are. Imagine a line drawn between the armpit and the inner thigh; the extra nipples are usually on this line.

Nipple discharge
Nipple discharge is usually harmless and does not signify anything seriously wrong. In fact, most women can squeeze some discharge out of their nipples, especially if they have had children in the past. This may be whitish or may be yellow-green or almost black.

On the other hand, nipple discharge can be a symptom of breast cancer, particularly if it is bloodstained. Therefore, you should definitely discuss any nipple discharge with your doctor. If you are a man, you should see your doctor straight away, because the usual cause is a tumour and you will need treatment.

What your doctor will do. Your doctor will check your medication, because some drugs can cause (non-bloody) nipple discharge. The most common culprits are:

Your doctor will ask whether there is any possibility that you could be pregnant. Some women have nipple discharge very early in pregnancy. Your doctor will then examine your whole breast thoroughly (not just the nipple), to make sure you have no lumps.

Even if you have not noticed any blood, your doctor may ask you to try to squeeze a few drops out, and will test it for microscopic blood.

Each nipple has about 15–20 tiny pores on it. These pores are the openings of ducts that connect with the glandular tissue in the breast. You and your doctor should try to work out whether the discharge is coming from just one pore, or from several.

If all the tests are normal, you can stop worrying, but the discharge may still bother you (perhaps soiling your clothes). A possible cause is some inflammation (mastitis) around the ducts. This is linked with smoking, and may improve if you stop smoking and avoid squeezing. A course of antibiotics may help.

It is possible to have an operation to close or remove the ducts that the discharge is coming from. This operation may not be a good idea for anyone who plans to become pregnant afterwards – depending on the number of ducts involved, it might make breastfeeding difficult and the breast might become congested.

For more information about the breast, look at the section on breast problems

Inverted nipples (innies)
Most women’s nipples protrude (stick out) about 5–10 mm. Usually they become about 10 mm longer and 2–3 mm wider during sexual arousal. Some women have nipples that are flat, but become erect during sexual arousal or when a baby is sucking on the nipple. Nipples that are tucked into the breast, instead of being flat or sticking out, are called inverted nipples. Both nipples may be inverted, or just one.

Breastfeeding should not be too much of a problem if your nipples become erect in the cold or when you are sexually aroused. It will be harder for the baby to draw the nipple into the back of its mouth, so breastfeeding will require some patience, but eventually the baby’s strong sucking will draw the nipple out. You will be able to help by applying an ice cube wrapped in a flannel to the nipple beforehand and by stroking the areola (the pink area round the nipple). Male Lactation. (Related issue: Breastfeeding.)

If stimulation does not make the nipple protrude, breastfeeding may be more difficult. During the last 6–8 weeks of pregnancy, you may be able to encourage the nipples to stick out by wearing breast shields under your bra. These are small devices that press gently on the breast around the nipple. They are quite comfortable. They are worn for 1 or 2 hours at first, and the time is gradually increased. Your midwife will be able to advise you.

Ways of making your nipples protrude. Even if you do not intend to breastfeed you may wish to have protruding nipples. Teenagers often have flat nipples and, in some women (especially if their periods did not start until late), they remain flat until the early 20s. So if you are young, there is a possibility that they may gradually start to protrude. Otherwise, you could try stroking the areola with warm hands for a few minutes each day to bring the nipple out. You could also try wearing breast shields. Do not wear them for too long at first, otherwise the breasts may become sore, and do not continue wearing them for more than 6 weeks.

If these measures do not work and your nipples are really distressing you, it is possible to have a small operation to make the nipples protrude. This involves a small incision on each side of the nipple, and the cutting of some ducts and tissue. The drawback is that some women cannot breastfeed after this operation, and the operation is very expensive (and not available on the National Health Service).

Hairy nipples

Coarse, dark hairs around the nipple are quite common. You can pull them out with tweezers, but this can cause irritation because the skin round the nipple is very sensitive. It is probably better simply to cut them off close to the skin. This is easier if you hold the end of the hair with tweezers to keep it taut. The hairs will grow again, so you will have to cut them off again from time to time.

Hairs round the nipple are nothing to worry about unless you have excess hairiness on other parts of the body and your periods are irregular. If this is the case, you may have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and you should see your doctor. You will find more information about PCOS in the section on hairiness in women.

Itchy, scaly nipples

If your nipples are itchy, scaly and cracked, you probably have eczema. The itching can make this an embarrassing condition. It occurs mainly in women in their late teens, and usually affects both nipples. It may be only on the nipple, or may affect the flatter area surrounding the nipple (the areola). A steroid cream from your doctor will deal with it. Your doctor will check that it is not scabies, which can cause a similar appearance.

‘Jogger’s nipple’ is another possibility. This is caused by friction from clothing, especially during long-distance running. Protect your nipples with petroleum jelly (Vaseline) or surgical tape (Micropore, from pharmacies) before exercising. A silk running vest is less abrasive than synthetic fibres.

Very rarely, eczema of a nipple can signal a cancerous growth beneath. This is uncommon, but it is why you should see your doctor if you have eczema on only one nipple. It occurs mainly in middle-aged or elderly women. It is not usually itchy, but there may be a pricking or burning feeling.


Wardrobe Malfunction

There Ought to be a Law

Photo at top is of the nipple of an adult female Orangutan, Subis, seen with her two week old baby at the Chester Zoo, Cheshire, England. There ought to be a law. If women can't breast feed in public, no-one should be allowed to. Isn't that right?

Nipple Covers

These multi-wear, waterproof nipple covers are pure genius and make slightly sheer fabrics a fashion DO for those who dare. And for those who are more modest (and modestly endowed), they can add peace of mind under a halter top. Think of them as insurance.

What Photos of Breastfeeding Are Supposed to Look Like

The most recent picture to raise eyebrows (and get fingers typing) was Natalia Vodianova’s Instagram picture of her nursing her baby in the nude. In the midst of the praise for the beauty of the picture, some have gone so far as to say they are appalled by the image -- just as people were appalled when Gisele shared a shot of her breastfeeding while getting her hair and makeup done for a photo shoot, or trashed Ms. Kerr or Ms. King for sharing their photos because either they “weren’t appropriate” or shouldn’t have been shared.

As Alyssa Ashton wrote for Canadian Living about Natalia Vodianova’s recent photo, “No mum looks like this when she breastfeeds. Her hair and make-up isn’t usually done. She isn’t posing seductively. And she certainly isn’t breastfeeding in the nude. I hate this image because it presents breastfeeding in an inaccurate fashion.”

Ms. Ashton’s comments highlight what has become a minefield for women sharing breastfeeding photos in public in hopes of either normalizing breastfeeding or simply sharing a moment: No matter what the picture is, or who shares it, it’s wrong. These pictures are too sexy. Too formal. Too stiff. Shouldn’t be shared in public. Unfair to mothers who don’t have access to the same resources as these models. Glamorize breastfeeding. Sexualize breastfeeding ... In short, they don’t “look” like breastfeeding is “supposed to look like.” It’s not just celebrities either. Jamie Lynne Grumet from I Am Not the Babysitter was catapulted into the public eye with the infamous Time cover of her nursing her then-3-year-old standing up. People repeatedly stated the image wasn’t a “good representation” of breastfeeding.

What I’d like to know is, what is breastfeeding supposed to look like?

Is it just this lovey-dovey moment between mother and child as they’re curled up on the sofa gazing at each other? That’s a wonderful moment (one I’ve experienced many times), but it’s certainly not the be all and end all of breastfeeding. I can return to what Ms. Ashton wrote and tell you that I have nursed in all the ways she mentions, including the come hither look (you know, the “Hey baby, let me put this baby to sleep so we can have some fun!” look). I also smiled when I saw Ms. Grumet’s cover because, at the time, my daughter regularly stood on things to have a quick drink, and it was nice to know it wasn’t just me. I also have a picture of me nursing while getting my makeup done a la Gisele.

I have nursed in so many different places while doing so many different things and looking so many different ways and I am happy to share any of them because they are all what breastfeeding looks like. Breastfeeding doesn’t look one way because we as nursing mothers aren’t just one thing. We are mothers, but we are also sexual beings and the two are not incompatible. In fact, we do a disservice to women when we are, in essence, telling them that they can’t be sexual whilst breastfeeding, that they have to remain asexual because it’s not true. It’s not just about sexuality though, because we also work, we might enjoy doing our makeup every day (or not), we might prefer to read a book or watch TV while nursing sometimes, or we may not want to stop what we are doing resulting in nursing on the go or while doing something else. We may nurse nude, we may nurse in bed, after a shower, or at the dinner table. Just as no two women are the same, no two nursing experiences are the same between or even within women.

We have to stop this ridiculous and wrong idea that breastfeeding has to look a certain way. People trying to normalize breastfeeding have a hard enough time on their hands with people who feel it’s something that should be kept quiet and out of sight without adding that only certain pictures of breastfeeding are “acceptable.” Just because one person’s nursing experience doesn’t match your own, it doesn’t invalidate their breastfeeding experience, it just highlights how unique and special breastfeeding can be. Isn’t that something worth celebrating instead of shunning?

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